Where You Should Stop on the Way to Tofino
From Campbell River to Tofino, the drive is approximately 3 and a half hours. Along the way, you can stop at Cathedral Grove located midway along the route. Cathedral Grove is a silent preserve where the giant redwoods reside. Some of these trees are over 300 years old and their dimensions are massive, reaching height of 250 feet and circumferences of 29 feet. It is free to explore here, including free parking; however, it gets very busy and it can be a challenge to find a parking spot. The trails here are really for everyone, broad and wide with a mix of forested dirt trails and wooden boardwalks. It’s a quick but worthwhile stop and you have to see The Big Tree which is over 800 years old and just gigantic.
One more mini detour if you are hoping to stretch your legs is “The Hole in the Wall” in Port Alberni. It a man made large hole in a rock where a pipeline was meant to go. It is now a little scenic stop with water flowing through the hole into an emerald creek below. A little post hike snack can be had at Coombs Country Candy right across the road where we got a delicious little bit of fudge and toffee. The final stretch of drive before reaching Tofino on the west coast is a winding road along Sprout Lake.
Tofino was once a small fishing town and is now a bustling tourist destination known for long sandy beaches and cold water surfing. It’s shunned chain restaurants and instead has an upscale little downtown area with great dining and shopping. It is separated from its southern neighbor, Ucluelet, by the Pacific Rim National Park. We actually stayed in Ucluelet at the Storm Cove Suites. Ucluelet is the sleepier town of the two with far less shopping and dining and an overall more quiet vibe. The Storm Cove Suites were located right beside a picturesque cove of dark sands and bleached washed up trees and just a tad south of The Artist Loops, a section on the Wild Pacific Trail.
Cox Bay Lookout Trail
With only 2-3 days here, we managed a bustling itinerary. On our arrival, we went to Cox Bay and hiked a crazy little ‘trail’ called the Cox Bay Lookout Trail. Your first look at Cox Bay is quite stunning as it is one of the classic long sandy beaches of Tofino with surfers surrounded by the towering shoreline trees. This hike is a hidden gem located at the left end (if facing the water) of the beach which is barely marked. It’s a scramble but a very fun one with muddy roots and lots of hoisting up handholds. One you reach the top, you will have a 360 degree view of the coastline. Worth it! (Bring hiking boots that you can get muddy)
Pacific Rim National Park and Wild Pacific Trail
The next day we did a little meander through parts of the Pacific Rim National Park which is separated into three distinct areas: Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands and the West Coast Trail. Hiking is endless here. We chose the Rainforest Trail first which is an easy loop just south of Long Beach with wooden boardwalks snaking through a mossy ancient forest. We also spent some hiking along the Wild Pacific Trail which hugs the coast of Ucluelet. You can make an easy loop, The Lighthouse Loop, which is great at sunset and is only about 1.5 miles. You’ll get up close to the Amphitrite Lighthouse and overlook the Broken Islands (which is the part of that Pacific Rim National Park only accessible via water) and lookout for whales. Our favorite part though was Artists Loops, a 3 mile out and back during which you’ll be along the rocky, dramatic coastline for the entire hike. It also has a little detour, The Ancient Cedars Loop, which is a half mile through towering trees in a canopy of green (there’s a portable toilet here too if needed!).
Black Bears with Adventure Tofino
Our final time on Vancouver Island was spent with what else? Another bear tour! This time for black bears along the coast. We chose Adventure Tofino as it was one of the few operators that still had open rib tours this time of year. The open rib was a bit exhilarating and you could shoot photos unobstructed. It wasn’t even cold as they supply you with giant insulated floatation suits. The cost was 150 CAD. We saw bears foraging for crabs and other fish along the coastline by turning over rocks and even one on his hind legs grabbing some berries. You are at quite a distance however, so another time you’ll need your binoculars and telephoto lens. It was a quick 2 to 2.5 hours but we did have success in seeing bears!
This was the final stop on our week long road trip through Vancouver Island. Read about our other stops here!